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Review: Batman The Silver Age Newspaper Comics Volume One: 1966-1967


Batman: The Silver Age Newspaper Comics Volume One: 1966-1967; hardcover, 256 pages, IDW Publishing, US $49.99
Creative team includes: Whitney Ellsworth, Sheldon Moldoff, Carmine Infantino, Joe Giella, Bob Powell

 

What you'll get: A thorough and detailed opening text by Joe Desris. Desris, a longtime Bat-fan, envied massive Batman collector and expert, provides several pages of details about the origin and progression of this strip accompanied with lots of graphics that were used to promote the strip for different newspapers across the country.

 

Ten original and complete story sequences (and the start of an eleventh). Familiar villains like the Penguin, Catwoman, Joker (with moll Laughing Girl, complete with native-American Indian costume and non-politically correct dialogue for today and who’s really Bertha Schultz from Brooklyn), and Poison Ivy (with her gang of Ivy League dropouts Veronica Vassar, Nancy Radcliffe and Betsy Barnard) appear here. Riddler makes a very brief appearance in the opening Batgirl sequence.

 

New villains Little Napoleon, Jolly Roger (a pirate themed villain and his moll Thalia Morgan), and Blue Max (a WWI German pilot themed baddie) also appear separately in the book. There is a light-hearted story with British Batman and Robin imitators Batchap and Bobbin as well. A story with Pretty Boy Floy and his sister Flo (Madame Zodiac) Floy begins at the book’s end. Robin’s “Holy” exclamations are very prevalent throughout.

 

A surprise appearance and guest stars. Superman makes a cameo appearance in one story. The late comedian Jack Benny assists Batman and Robin in one story (complete with a scene with all three doing a bat-climb as it was depicted from the ’66 TV show). Celebrity appearances were common on the tv series. I wonder how Benny’s appearance was received by comic fans at the time; was this a hip or square move? I hope the former. Hilton Hotel founder Conrad Hilton (great grandfather of Paris Hilton) appears in the Poison Ivy sequence where a bat-shaped Batman hotel is built (complete with a bat-shaped pool and Robinette women staff wearing Robin costumes).

 

A retelling of Batman and Robin origins. In one story sequence, two separate Sunday strips retell our hero’s origins. Something that wasn’t elaborated on in the then aired television show.

 

What you won't get:: Conventional comic book story-telling. I’m not sure if most of today’s comic book fans ever followed a serialized comic strip before. (I feel sorry for those who haven’t). I know there aren’t many daily adventure comic strips in newspapers today as there were back in 1966. (I still follow Dick Tracy myself.) I think it’s fair to say the pacing of the book’s stories is a little different in this book as opposed to recent comic books (although with so many comic book “events” these days, hmmm.) While the Poison Ivy sequence started as an attempted romance between Laurel Lee (Ivy’s alter-ego here) and Batman, it ended in a dragging chase scene which went to clunk on for four weeks!

 

The same telling of Batgirl’s first appearance from the comic book. When Batgirl first appeared in the strip, Commissioner Gordon thought she was Batman’s sister, and worse, also a law-breaker. I do give the creative team credit here for having Batgirl coming to find out who Batman and Robin really are as opposed to the TV show and comic books at the time which had Batgirl not finding out. However, this sequence had a lot of bizarre events including Bruce and Dick disguising themselves as bank robbers (complete with domino masks), Batman getting amnesia, and Batgirl having to dress as Batman for reasons and circumstances you’ll have read the book for.

 

Bottom Line: I know this book isn’t for every Bat-Fan; some could care less about any elements of camp, or any different non-continuity/non-comic book version of Batman. The $49.99 cover price certainly could scare some people away too (though you can find it cheaper through Amazon and other outlets). For myself, I had longed to see these stories collected. This book was a rare treat and something I was very excited about. IDW (no stranger to reprinting comic strips) and DC Comics did an excellent job putting this book together and I can’t wait for the subsequent volumes.

 

Batman: The Silver Age Newspaper Comics Volume 1:

 

5 out of 5 Batarangs

 

Reviewed by Chris Karnes

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